3 Ways to Create More Time

photo by ePi.Longo 

I’ve been hearing from clients and business owners a lot recently that their biggest issue is that they need is more time in the day.

Unfortunately you can’t create time – technically you can’t even manage it, it marches on pretty much at the same pace (although subjectively it can certainly feel faster or slower).

Although you can’t create time, there are several things you can do to make that perceived time crunch much less of an issue.  Previously I talked about 10 Ways to Get More Done and covered some great ideas to help make you more productive but the focus for today is from an angle of simplicity.

I’m inspired by Leo Babauta – author of Zen Habits – here’s a post on 10 things you can do to simplify your life that I thought was compelling.

What can you do to ‘create more time’?  Below are some ideas to get you started.

1.  Start with the Big Rocks

I don’t remember where I first heard this, but it’s a pretty widespread time management practice – there’s a great write-up in more detail at A List Apart.  The way this works is that you imagine your day as a large jar and all the stuff you do, have to do, want to do, can do are rocks of various sizes, from grains of sand all the way up to ‘big rocks’.

The Big Rocks symbolize the high priority, high payoff important activities – as defined by YOU!

On a normal day, most people will just fill in their jar with whatever is closest – or more likely other people will throw gravel and sand in your jar for you.  The problem with this approach is that the Big Rocks won’t fit in – unless you put them in first and then you can fit in gravel and sand around them to get a really full productive day jar.

So the key to really making this work is 2 fold:

First identify what’s really important – maybe it’s exercise, maybe it’s spending some time with your kids or family, maybe it’s the top 2 or 3 things you do that really drive results / money in your business.  What are your top priorities – things you should be spending time on.

Once you’ve identified those ‘Big Rocks’, then put them in your weekly schedule (you could also do it daily, but I find weekly is easier to deal with).  Block out chunks of time and hold on to focusing on those Big Rocks.

You’ll be amazed at what a difference it can make!

2. Declutter

We had a discussion in one of my Advisory Board Groups last week about strategies for productivity and one of the members talked about the decluttering approach he’s taking and already seeing benefits from.

Many of us of are (or live with) pack rats and I believe owning a business or managing people tends to reinforce the tendency that we need to keep everything.  This is a big problem for me – I hate to admit it, but I’ve still got documents from a corporate job from over 10 years ago!

There are exceptions – when it comes to financial documents (invoices you’ve sent or paid, taxes, etc.) you likely need to have a good process for keeping stuff at least for a few years.  You also want to make sure you can take advantage of re-using good work, presentations, documents, whatever that you’ve done previously (although it shouldn’t be a hard copy).

Beyond that, you should be getting rid of just about everything else.  Realistically you’re not suddenly going to purge everything all at once and maintain a clear workspace going forward, but the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one.  😉

What you can do is systematically purge those things that are nagging at you – when you come in the room and look away from that pile of stuff that’s been on the shelf next to your desk for the last 6 months, perched precariously…

Start with that.  Then pick 1 area a week for the next few weeks and see what kind of progress you can make.

Meanwhile develop a mindset and a habit that challenges keeping stuff going forward.  One idea that I like – try getting rid of 2 things for every new thing you bring in.

The reason the whole decluttering thing is important is because it tends to represent unfinished business or ‘open loops’ in the Getting Things Done parlance.  The more open loops you have, the more likely you will be distracted or just not functioning at peak efficiency.

Declutter and become more efficient (kind of like defragging your hard drive).

3.  Less is More

I wasn’t sure if it made sense to add this in – it does overlap with both of the points above, but I think it goes well above and beyond decluttering and prioritizing.

When I say Less is More the point is that almost everyone is trying to do too much (myself included).

What skills do you have?

There are a couple of ways to look at this:  First from the perspective of innate skills.  I’m pretty good at a lot of things, but I know I’m not as good at financial book-keeping type of activities as a CPA or a book keeper.  It’s not that I can’t do it, and I’ve certainly learned a lot while I’ve been doing it, but it’s not a good use of my time.  For most business owners this should be outsourced (By the way, I know some good CPAs if you’d like an introduction…).

Along those same lines, for a lot of business owners there are manual elements to marketing, selling or administering their business that are also not good uses of their time. 

If you could use that time to focus on high value activities, how much more money could you make?  If it’s a positive number, then you should probably be trying to figure out how to outsource – at least the stuff you really don’t like.

What’s the focus of your business?

The second way to look at Less is More is that more than likely you are not keeping a tight enough focus on your business and on your activities.  You and your business are really good at something – possibly you are really good at 2 or 3 things. 

From a personal perspective, it’s difficult to have the passion and the skills to be great at many things.  If you focus on what you’re great at and drop the rest (or refer it out or outsource it) then you will be more successful in the long run.

From a business perspective, prospects and people that want to refer you will not engage with you unless they have a good handle on what it is that you do.  If you tell them you do everything, you might as well tell them you do nothing. 

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”  – Bill Cosby

They don’t have a way to categorize you and they have no way of figuring out how you can help them, so they will just leave you floating.

Are you doing activities, services, products that don’t really fit with your overall approach but you thought it was a worthwhile add-in?  Maybe now is the time to figure out how to transition those things out and bring yourself and your business back into focus.

How do you create more time?

I’d love to hear more ideas of how busy people get the right things done.  Post a comment and let me know what think.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

6 thoughts on “3 Ways to Create More Time”

  1. Betsy says:

    Hi Shawn,
    I’m here from Remarkablogger. RSS’ing you. Good stuff!

  2. DanGTD says:

    Great article.
    Starting the day with the most important stuff, that either provides the most results or makes the most money for you, is crucial.

  3. Great article and links. I actually used the pickle jar analogy in a time management training I conducted a couple years ago. I used and taught the Covey systems, before finding and reading David Allen’s GTD book earlier this year. That led to my discovery of an electronic application that allows me to view my entire GTD at work on my Win machine, at home on my Macs and even on my cell phone. And another app lets me call in tasks to my GTD without any writing or typing, great for those thoughts that hit me while driving. This has now replaced my Covey system. I’ve written about my experiences with GTD in a blog post at http://johnkendrick.wordpress.com/2008/03/27/more-getting-things-done/ John

  4. Dan and John,

    Thanks for the comments and John thanks for the link – it’s powerful stuff once you can figure out what works for you.


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